Skype has hit back at allegations that it has opened up greater access of its instant messaging systems to law enforcement authorities, insisting that nothing has changed post-Microsoft acquisition. Concerns over Skype’s transparency around monitoring and backdoor access surfaced earlier this week, when the company refused to comment on specific wiretap provisions; however, the truth is that you’re no more likely to be monitored now – and in no greater depth – than you were before, Mark Gillett, Chief Development and Operations Officer at the company, explains on the official Skype blog.
It had been suggested that following the switch to so-called server based supernodes, Skype had extra provision for monitoring instant messaging conversations and user data (though not VoIP and video calls, something Gillett also reiterates). In fact, “the move to supernodes was not intended to facilitate greater law enforcement access to our users’ communications” the Skype exec says, and “the enhancements we have been making to our software and infrastructure have been to improve user experience and reliability. Period.”
“Your instant messaging (IM) communications content may be stored by Skype (a) to convey and synchronise your messages and (b) to enable you to retrieve the messages and history where possible. IM messages are currently stored for a maximum of 30 days unless otherwise permitted or required by law. Skype will at all times take appropriate technical and security measures to protect your information. By using this product, you consent to the storage of your IM communications as described above” Skype
In short, Skype is doing just what the most recent suggestions indicated the company was – making chat conversations available when correctly requested from law enforcement, as long as those conversations took place within the last 30 days – but nothing more. Gillett’s comments are carefully phrased, of course, to take the emphasis off of Skype doing anything specifically and primarily in the name of law enforcement; even the rumors earlier this week suggested that the supernodes moving in-house to Microsoft’s servers had merely had the side-effect of making monitoring of IM chats more straightforward.